Editor’s Note: Upon hearing what our own Karson Brown experienced at this show, Mike Barsch, the owner of Soda Jerk Presents who runs The Marquis Theater reached out to us to personally apologize. He assured us that he and his staff have had several conversations already about how to prevent incidents like the ones described in this article from happening ever again. We commend him for his honesty and the fact that he reached out to us to talk about this. It is our position that this incident is not representative of how Soda Jerk runs their venues.
Barsch stated that Foxy Shazam had played his venues several times and that nothing like this had ever happened in the past. He prides himself on being able to anticipate crowd behavior and staff appropriately, and admitted that this one took him by surprise. In regards to the band stopping and helping to calm things down, he agreed that they should have and cited a Hatebreed show a few weeks ago when the band stopped their set several times and encouraged the crowd to settle down before pulling the plug entirely and walking off stage only seven songs into their set. What’s the moral of this story . . . well it’s that the crowd and band are as much to blame, if not more to blame, than the venue. We live in a society where human life has value and you can’t disregard that just because you are at a Rock show, or in a rock band. Let’s grow up people. Sure, these shows are about having fun and blowing off a little steam, but how much fun is it when there is blood gushing from someone’s face and girls are curled up on a dirty club floor crying and scared they are going to be crushed to death. Think about it next time you try to push to the front of a packed room or jump off a stage into a crowd of people.
The Scene: The Marquis Theater is an intimate venue with an unaccommodating stage for artists and crowd alike. I planned ahead and got there early to secure my place up front and make sure I would be able to see and photograph the band for this review. Once Foxy Shazam took the stage, the mob mentality from the gathering set in immediately and those of us in front would spend the rest of the show trying to figure out how to escape.
Foxy Shazam: A trumpet solo by Alex Nauth in the corner of the tiny stage started things off unassumingly. Seeming unimpressed by the crowd’s lackluster greeting, Nauth shrugged it off and stared blankly into the crowd and seemed to immediately disconnect. With Nauth in space, Mr. Eric Nally, the now blond bombshell front man for the Glam Rock band, took the stage and the group opened with the title track from Church of Rock and Roll and the waiting crowd responded with a roar. While Nally rolled around on the floor, jumped, gyrated, and did summersaults, the band’s loyal following was being overrun, trampled, and crushed by an out of control mob.
To put this review in context, I have photographed and reviewed Foxy Shazam several times over the past year and I consider myself a devout follower. As a result, I thought I knew what kind of crowd to expect: a high spirited dancing gang that transcended all ages. It turns out I was wrong. Once the music started, the crowd morphed, tightened, and the crush became too much to handle, the excitement of a high-energy Rock show turned to terror for all of us in the front row.
As I struggled to hold my ground and get some pictures of the antics on stage, the group of teenagers next to me were getting crushed, hit, and shoved by the drunken mob behind them. One young lady, who was decked out in a tribute to Nally’s old Willie Wonka pirate look with the dark sunglasses and an attached plastic mustache, was being smashed so hard against the stage wall and the monitors that she spent the majority of the show collapsed on the floor and crying because of her injuries. I tried to help create a human barricade for her and her friends and suggested to help get her out…but how? We were all completely trapped and there were no security personnel at the front of the stage to help get her out before the suffocating crowd gobbled her up.
Pushing, shoving, and the occasional crowd surfer or stage diver; all of these things are par for the course when going to a show like this, especially at such a small venue. Most concertgoers, music lovers, and industry professionals understand this and tolerate it if they aren’t mixed up in the fray themselves. I have been to countless concerts throughout my life, as a fan and on assignment, and I thought I had seen it all…but again, I was wrong.
Midway through the show, I looked over to see a friend and fellow veteran concert photographer covered in blood after being kicked in the face by a drunken stage diver. Her face was smeared with blood and her equipment destroyed. Completely stunned, where was she to go? Security personnel couldn’t get to us to help, and we were no longer just putting up with the mayhem we had become accustomed to enduring, now it was about protecting ourselves and those nearby from more serious injuries.
From my vantage point neck deep in a sea of sweaty irreverent humanity the only escape was to jump on stage, and I did just that. As I helped my bloodied friend and got her on stage and out of the crush, I wish I could say that the band stopped playing, that they addressed the crowd and us, or that they even acknowledge our presence on the tiny stage or the woman covered in blood merely a foot from them. But no, there was nothing. No help from the band, no words, no acknowledgment, no concern. I was appalled.
Foxy Shazam’s once unpredictable performances with boundless energy, clever crowd engaging stories, and the infamous eating of lit cigarettes at the end of the show, has turned into a bit of a gimmick. Was it the bands irreverent attitude towards the crowd, unappreciative attitude, and calculated stunts that tipped this crowd over the edge? This over the top brashness has detracted from their music. It is now more about the act than the fun-loving incredibly charged music from their past. They have unbelievable talent with a completely unique sound but on Sunday night they weren’t willing to break from character for one second, not even to help someone in need. Their lack of compassion this time spoke louder than their music, and I’m truly disappointed in them.